Treating an Abscess


 It is easy to confuse abscesses with other health issues, even cud chewing.

Maybe a ray of hope for caring for CL. Go to CL Goat Care by Susan M. Strauman.

The information on this website is being provided free of charge as a public service intended for the betterment of the quality of life of CL-infected goats and their owners. Use of the information on this website is entirely at your own risk, and no warranty is implied nor liability assumed on the part of the author in any way through your voluntary use of the information provided.

I, Cynthia Queen, the author, have taken great care in the preparation of the information on this website. I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have any formal veterinary training whatsoever. I am simply documenting on this website what I have observed and experienced firsthand with my own herd of goats and in the dealings with others who have had CL positive animals..

Number One Rule, where ever you are going to pop the abscess make sure it is a place an animal is not going to graze. Preferably a hard top surface where bleach can be spread to kill anything you missed. Sometimes the pus explodes out of an abscess and if the stuff is contagious you might end up with a herd full of abscess.

It is said dogs also can get a form of CL and CL is contagious to humans. If you suspect it is more than a simple bite, thorn or puncture take extra precautions. There are farms dealing with CL where no other animal but goats or sheep have contracted the disease.

Persistent coughing could be the lung form of CL which turned out to be my case with my herd. They later developed nodules on their rear lymph glands just in front of the hind legs. Few developed the pus nodules on the neck which was finally what tipped me off that the disease was in my herd. Sadly the vets advised me to treat my animals for upper respiratory infections and never advised me to have them tested for CL. It was only after reading information on abscesses and how to treat them that I began to dig deeper.

What are abscesses?

Abscesses are filled with bacteria and dead cells the body has corralled, usually around a foreign object, to protect itself from infection. The abscess usually ruptures on the outside of the body. If it ruptures internally into the abdomen or brain serious sickness and death can occur. Fortunately this is usually not the case.

The abscess will feel soft and the hair might come out of the middle. Its time to tap it. Just incase it is contagious, pretend that is, and take precaution to make sure none of the material touches the ground. Wear long sleeves. Wash the hair around the injury with soapy water. If the cyst has opened up on its own I personally would wash the whole goat, especially around their legs. Burn everything you can that touches the abssess and properly discard syringes. Use all new syringes if you have to tap the abscess a second time. An ounce of precaution is worth a ton of no-cure on this issue.

To test an abscess poke one hole in it. (Be sure to wear latex gloves.) If you don't get pus by gently applying pressure you should leave it alone and apply hot compresses until it comes to a head. Often there will be a softer indent which is the spot you should tap. If you get some pus tap a second hole slightly deeper and try to draw the pus out. I have had more success by drawing a little then pressing the abscess gently. Press in all directions over and over again until all the pus is out and you start getting blood in clear pus. Be prepared, an abscess can hold a large amount of pus for as small a bump as it makes! It can also "pop" out at you! Watch your face and keep your mouth closed just incase. (Ew-gross!!!) Better yet, wear a doctor's mask or a carpenter's dust mask.

Have on hand your best buddy with a strong arm and stronger stomach. Plenty of paper towels, rubber or latex gloves, a clean needle and syringe to break the abscess or a #10 scapel,  3cc Luer slip syringes have no needle and work nice for drawing up the pus, triple antibiotic ointment and a clean needle and syringe filled with 7% iodine. (In our area they sell only the 4% because illegal meth labs were boiling it down. Just like cough syrup, glue, and herbs there has to be someone to screw it up for everybody which generally kills or makes it more difficult to treat someone or something. Of course those people addicted to the stuff could care less. Anyways, if you can't get 7% you now know why.)

Flush erupted abscesses with 7% iodine. Do so by inserting syringe in one hole and flushing until it comes out the second hole. Be careful not to get Iodine in the goats ears, eyes or nose.

Use the Triple Antibiotic Cream until the abscess heals.  Unless your goat is of endearing nature it is by now probably not speaking to you. Might I might suggest a slim four foot rope hanging off a collar if you have the goat in an open pen. You can step on it and make catching it easier.

It is important to keep flies and other insects away. The ointment discourages the pests and helps healing.

You should administer a tetanus anti-toxin injection as a precautionary if the animal has not had a recent immunization.

Put all discarded items into garbage bags. Allow nothing to touch the ground. Put all instruments in an aluminum foil cake tray while you work and throw this out, too! Be sure to put needles in a soda pop bottle so they won't poke through the bag- give the pus some bleach by adding it to the bottle. (Just in case its CL make sure it dies!)

Don't forget to step in a shallow pan of bleach to disinfect your shoes!

On yourself you should use a Betadine Surgical Scrub on your exposed skin and change your clothes.

Burn all contaminated material and keep the goat away from other goats until the abscess stops draining- just incase.

If you suspect CL your work area needs to be completely cleaned. Removing two inches of soil from pens or using a tri-sodium phosphate solution on the ground, or something similar, will sterilize an area. Spreading agricultural lime will also help kill CL.  Even then, spreading the lime is not a bad idea. It will keep bacteria and fly populations down.



If you suspect the abscess is CL immediately remove the goat from the herd. If you can, take the goat off the premises to a friends house who does not have goats and will never have goats or sheep. Test the abscess to be sure it is CL. This stuff is contagious to all goats. Take extreme care with the pus as this stuff can stay in the ground - according some websites- for years and live in temperatures under -50 degrees! Brrr!

It is said humans can contract CL from the pus, too. There is much debate on this point and very rarely has anyone. The milk of an infected goat should never be drank and in my personal opinion a goat with this disease should never be bred. By the time I knew this stuff was in my herd I had one goat who had not kidded. I drew her out of the herd and took the baby the very next day. After ten weeks I now suspicion the baby has CL- which I can not test according to my vet until she is six months old. My suspicion lies in her rear lymph glands swelling. We will see if removing the baby from its mother makes any difference. As I was going to go into registered stock I made the very painful decision to have my entire herd put down. I did not test the mother. I cry as I write, knowing the baby and one buckling (being tested now) is all that's left of three years of work. Worse is the fact that unintentionally I sold animals potentially with the disease, thinking I had successfully treated an upper respiratory infection when the animals quit coughing.

 If infected goats can be placed as a pet in a home where it will never come in contact with another goat it would make a nice pet. If not I won't discuss the alternative. May I never have to deal with this again, or may you never have to at all.

There is no vaccination for goats. The vaccine for sheep has a severe reaction in goats. As of this writing the advise is never use it. The website Tennessee Meat Goats has an article aimed at Colorodo Serum's to encourage development.(2010)

An inexpensive test can be done on blood or pus samples to determine the bacterium. Goats should be older than six months to get accurate results. Unfortunately too many abscesses are CL. Goats kept in with sheep are especially vulnerable.

As a side note regularly liming and cleaning areas contaminated with feces, especially wooden surfaces, can help reduce the bacteria. Use rubber feeders and troughs and regularly bleach them. Rotating the herds field and making huts "mobile" so pooh doesn't build up in one area also cuts down on worm infestation.


Note: Eating the meat of CL-infected goats will not NOT transmit CL to humans; external abscesses come off with the hide and internal abscesses found in organs are discarded. However, as there is evidence the mother's milk can carry the CL virus and give it to her offspring, drinking goat's milk from a CL positive goat is highly not recommended. So saying, it would be worth having goats desired for milking vet tested and keeping this herd away from the mainstream herd if you are raising goats on a larger scale. This is also why keeping a new animal apart from your herd for six months is also very important. It would be best to buy two animals from the same place, keep them away from your herd for six months, then sell the one you don't want and keep and test the one you do. Goats bawl when they are left completely alone.

Types of Abscesses:


Injection Site Abscesses-if the immune system responds a vaccine it may create a large round lump. It should disappear without  intervention. The overeating-tetanus vaccine CD/T typically causes injection-site abscesses. Dirty needles and also re-use of the same needle for the whole herd may cause abscesses. It can also spread other diseases from an infected goat to a non-infected goat. So I would discourage using the needle on more than one animal.

A thorn, nail, barb wire or anything else sharp that punctures the skin could cause an abscess.

Bites or stings from insects, snakes, or other animals can abscess. Serious bites should be treated with Penicillin.

Just like humans, sometimes a goat will bite their own cheek so hard it could abscess.

If a goat has bad oral hygiene from not flossing between meals... just kidding.  Broken or loosened teeth or gum disease can cause abscesses around a molar. I would wager this goat does not want to eat, or slobbers food when it does. A horse will drop pieces of food out of its mouth, including grass, when it needs a floating.

Abscesses of the umbilical cord are rare. I would recommend a vet myself to draw out the fluid and prescribe system-wide antibiotics. This may be a Hernia and its why I recommend the vet. Umbilical cord hernias are serious.

De-horning is a two edge sword. If a scab forms over an infected open sinus cavity it could abscess and be a serious problem. Burning the horns is painful, but, cauterizes the wound instantly. The powder can be scraped by hooves which then get burned, rubbed into the eyes of other goats- blinding them, or rubbed onto you- burning you. The wound gets infected, draws flies and can end up in needing antibiotics. Personally I do like having handles on the older goats, but, the little buds as the babies grow up can leave you bruised. Dehorning a buck meant for breeding is a seventy-five percent should be done with me, (that has gone to a hundred percent since being knocked off my feet and severely bruised by a buck coming into rut. They are very unpredictable when they are in season.) Also bucks in rut can turn aggressive, as my friend will tell you after she went up and over a wheel burrow filled with horsepucky. It wouldn't have been so bad if the wheel burrow had stayed upright. The really worst part is she was burrowing my billy; and usually he is very tame. Well, she still calls me everyday and we laugh about her adventure. De-horning has its place, especially around young children.

Removing Wattles- the dangling extras under a goat's neck- is another two edge sword. I think their cute. I'm sure many breeders don't. If they do abscess after removal just treat them like all other abscesses. They are harmless and can be confused with CL.

Corynebacterium Pseudotuberculosis- is a bacteria that spreads like wild fire through a herd. It creates internal and external abscesses. The knots appear on lymph-glands. It may take months before you see them.

Internal abscesses of the Brain, Liver, Lung,  and Rumen  are serious. Usually they are caused by bacteria. Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) is all too common. Abscesses appearing under the ears, on the chest or the flanks are highly suspicious. Tuberculosis can also cause multiple organ abscesses.


Caseous Lymphadenitis- CL

There is no prevention or cure for Caseous Lymphadenitis. It seems any kind of injury or respiratory weakness can be a path for the disease; anything from a head butt to inhaling. (Almost like sending kids to school or visiting the local doctor's office.) You can find research on this disease at Goat World or other goat sites.

  • Antibiotics are rendered useless by the fibrous capsule containing the slowly developing abscess which is filled with a cheese like white pus that is thick.
  • Blood tests on animals over six months are most reliable.
  • If an abscess is open and runny the pus can be tested.
  • Buying goats at auctions is like playing Russian roulette. Stick to the buyers even if the price is initially higher. Selling your whole herd to the butcher may not be on your wish list either.
  • Is no vaccine. Don't be tempted to try the sheep version. It has been known to cause severe side effects including swollen legs.
  • Use a shoe bath of bleach in a shallow pen for entering and exiting a quarantine pen. This will help keep from tracking it to other parts of the farm. It might be wise to have a special pair of shoes set aside and keep them for use in a CL pen only.

Infected goats should be penned together away from healthy animals. In my personal opinion, if you are determined not to butcher the animals then you must also be determined to never allow more animals to be infected by introducing new stock or breeding them. This is a serious disease, worse than AIDS in people. Never and I repeat, never let the abscess burst by itself. If the stuff hits the ground the area is contaminated for years! Keep this in mind because it will be years before you should use the quarantine pen. If you have a friend who will never have goats on their property it would be worth getting the goats away from your whole herd.

When handling CL abscesses it is best to wear long armed gloves, long sleeve shirts, pants, socks and eye protection. Lay the goat on its side.

GOAT WORLD recommends:

"Cover exposed body parts with clothing and put on disposable gloves and protective eye gear. Enter the "sick pen" and place the goat on its side on the ground. Cut into the abscess perpendicularly to the goat's body . . . NOT at the base or at the top of the abscess . . . taking care not to allow the contents of the abscess to squirt on you. (Keep your mouth closed.) A "ripe" CL abscess oozes material the consistency of toothpaste. Using paper towels, squeeze the abscess until all of the pasty content is out and a bloody liquid begins to appear. Apply pressure from several directions, since most abscesses are comprised of several chambers closed off from each other. (This is why antibiotics are not effective; the medication cannot reach the encapsulated abscess.) A second incision is occasionally required."

Goats with abscesses should be confined from the rest of the herd, even if the herd is infected with CL.

Some very large abscesses will have more than one "chamber." This is a distinct sign of CL. A piece of gauze can be placed inside the incision with tweezers so a small piece hangs out. This will prevent healing of the cut so re-opening the abscess won't be necessary. You must remove the gauze when you clean the wound next time.

Your work area needs to be completely cleaned. Removing two inches of soil from pens or using a tri-sodium phosphate solution on the ground, or something similar, will sterilize an area. Spreading agricultural lime will also help kill CL.



Another method of treating CL is to inject  Formulin, available from a vet. If you absolutely know the abscess is CL this may be the way to go. It is dangerous as it can cause nerve paralysis and even death, yet, the abscess is not allowed to break and spread pus. You can check out more about it at GOAT WORLD and other goat sites.



Other conditions that might look like an abscess:

Cud chewing. Goats look like hamsters with their cheek stuffed full when they chew their cud. Don't freak unless the bulge is there hours later. Then you might have a true abscess developing.

Salivary Cysts would be best diagnosed by a vet or someone who is experienced. If you lance this painless swelling on the side of the face you could cause rumenal acidosis. The vet should use a needle to remove the odorless and colorless liquid that may have a tinge of blood in it.

Arthritis can cause enlarged lymph nodes, joint infections, swollen lymph nodes, Lymphosarcoma cancer, Bottlejaw, Goiters which I have a separate page about, urethral rupture in males allows urine to leak into the skin, fungal infections, and  hernias.